Described by the publishers as ""the first in-depth biography"" of the American master novelist and short-story writer, this smoothly written, sensitively nuanced work covers much of the material Susan Cheever included in her moving memoir of her father, Home Before Dark (1984). Donaldson (Fool for Love: F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1983; By Force of Will: The Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway, 1977) has, however, explored Cheever's life in greater detail and has included literary evaluations of the Cheever oeuvre. The result is a portrait of compelling interest. Cheever was a complex, immensely troubled figure--a recorder of suburban middle-class mores and bohemian rakehell; devoted family man and seducer of both women and men. He was at once the life of (almost) every party, at least until he slipped into an alcoholic stupor, and a chronic depressive. Donaldson has been able to portray these dichotomies with convincing realism. He is especially effective when, drawing on his knowledge of F. Scott Fitzgerald, he turns his attention to a comparison of the lives and works of the chronicler of the Jazz Age and the dissector of middle-class life during the mid-1900's. The parallels are striking--a craving for academic credentials, ambiguous reactions to wealth and the wealthy, alcoholism and depression. There are other penetrating rewards here as well: the author's unflinching analysis of his subject's bisexuality, his uncovering of many of the real reasons for Cheever's compulsive personal myth-making, and the ease and variety of Donaldson's prose. Even readers of Susan Cheever's work will find much here that is revelatory and rewarding.